George Weigel on ‘Traditionis custodes’: “Summorum Pontificum…. hope was being vindicated….”

At Catholic World Report George Weigel reacts to the 2021 Plessy v. Ferguson move Traditionis custodes.

First, let it be said that in his writings about what the Church needs today viz. “new evangelization” and the like has not included the Traditional Latin Mass.  He is solidly in the Novus Ordo camp and he repeats that in this new piece.

Having expressed his preference, he goes on (with my emphases):

That being said, I also think that the recent apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes [Custodians of the Tradition], which attempts to repeal Pope Benedict XVI’s generous permission for easier use of the Traditional Latin Mass in the 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, was theologically incoherent, pastorally divisive, unnecessary, cruel — and a sorry example of the liberal bullying that has become all too familiar in Rome recently.

Summorum Pontificum was an act of pastoral solicitude for those Catholics who find it more efficacious to worship according to the 1962 Missal, in what Benedict XVI described as the “Extraordinary Form” of the Roman Rite. It was also hoped that the Church’s broader experience of that Extraordinary Form would lead to a re-sacralizing and ennobling of the Church’s worship according to the “Ordinary Form” of the liturgy, the post-Vatican II missal of Pope Paul VI as revised by Pope John Paul II. In my experience, that hope was being vindicated, as the silly season in liturgy was mercifully drawing to an end.


In many American parishes where the Extraordinary Form has been offered as well as the more common Ordinary Form, the unity of the Church has not been impaired. That some proponents of the Extraordinary Form think themselves the sole faithful remnant of a decaying Church is certainly true, and their presence online is depressingly familiar. But it is an empirically unsustainable slander to suggest, as Traditionis Custodes does, that that divisive superiority complex (coupled with an ideologically-driven rejection of Vatican II) is the new normal for those who wish to worship at Masses celebrated with the Missal of 1962. Roman judgments should not be based on the hysteria and antics of the Catholic blogosphere. [This perhaps overstates the influences in this terrible decision.  It seems to me that “Roman judgments” in this case were altogether predetermined.  Then came the “consultation”, which turns out to have been rather selective, of bishops.  That “consultation” was intended to give cover to what was already decided.  I sense that “Roman judgments” were driven less by “antics” (of which I suspect they were mostly unaware) but of the reports of the rapid growth of the TLM and rapid expansion of the number of priests celebrating with it.  Morever, as I understand it, it could be that Summorum was about, perhaps, to get some traction in Italy.]

Progressive Catholicism has typically been characterized by an authoritarian streak — a tendency to bullying and intimidation that certainly bespeaks impatience and may suggest a lack of confidence in its proposals and arguments. In the present pontificate, that has led to an extreme notion of papal authority that might make Pope Pius IX blush. This has not gone over well throughout the world Church, and that fact will have a marked effect on the next papal election.


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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. samwise says:

    Pope Francis is himself bi-ritual:

    Would he suggest that Byzantine Catholics “in due time must return to the Paul VI Roman rite” as well? All rites are equal, but some are more equal than others…

  2. Grant M says:

    Pope Francis was supposed to be the Pope of Mercy, but right now he is making Papa Carafa look like Father Hugalot strumming his guitar and encouraging everyone to hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

  3. acardnal says:

    “That “consultation” was intended to give cover to what was already decided.”


  4. oldrover says:

    As a relative “rookie” Catholic, who swam the Tiber in 2010 after 50 years of aimless floating in a sea of Protestant inconsistencies, I find myself in 100% agreement with Weigel. We attend the Novus Ordo, and only recently did we attend the TLM service offered in our parish.

    I feel more at home in the NO, especially since my Latin got very rusty after decades of non use.

    That said, the TLM has value to me for tradition and mystery, two aspects of the Church for which I am eternally grateful. And the sledgehammer pronouncement appears unduly harsh. So happy that our Bishop has unilaterally and immediately approved TLMs in our diocese continuing.

    Thanks for posting this article.

  5. ReadingLad says:

    Some questions, if I may, Father…

    I find it significant that two emphatic comments in support of the traditional view have come from people who have, up-front, declared that they don’t themselves wholly embrace that view – this one, and one yesterday. Is that in itself an instance of “mutual enrichment”?

    Secondly, is Professor Weigel’s welcome comment an example of the work of the ‘well-founded evangelicals’ that you have previously predicted?

    Finally, a closing comment. The Holy Father cites the need to prevent the TLM becoming a rallying point for those who deny the validity of VII and specifically of the NO. Surely that was already explicit in the intent of Summorum Pontificum?

    The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church. (Instruction on the Application of the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, Para 19).

  6. HibernianFaithful says:

    Is it just me or does Pope Francis’ consultation smack of Cardinal Maestroianni in Windswept House schemes, including his misuse of Fr. Gladstone?

    I assumed that Windswept House, like 1984, was a warning, not an instruction Manual

  7. monstrance says:

    “Predetermined Roman judgements”
    Much like the recent synods.

  8. Pingback: VVEDNESDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  9. Not says:

    I remember going to a dinner with Father Malachi Martin as the speaker. He told us how Pope John PaulII sent him to the US to speak personally to all the Bishops. His report was that most of the Bishops had lost their faith, only they didn’t know it. He said, if they knew it they would want to get it back. I think because of the TLM some Bishops have found their faith and are not afraid to speak out. Look at the Bishops who came right out against stopping the TLM in their diocese. We are winning!

  10. Weigel’s article is another, even better example of what I said after reading Father Stravinskas’ article on the motu proprio. In the last few days, I’ve seen several other articles in the same vein by others who are not wedded to the TLM. I think TLM advocates will have tons of support from people who have no interest in attending the TLM if they can just take as high a road as possible and be positive about promoting something good– the TLM– instead of spending so much time condemning what they see as bad– the Novus Ordo.. Even liberals might take pause when they see how hard and fast the hammer can fall. A good advertisement doesn’t even mention the competition– it simply explains why what is being sold is the best in at least some way or another.

    As far as “the hysteria and antics of the Catholic blogosphere,” regular readers here should know that this blog is rather tame by comparison to a lot else that is out there, and I commend Father Z for doing what he must to keep it that way. I can only imagine what comments he’s not approving. I’ll never forget the mild shock I experienced when I first gained access to the private section on Catholic Online on CompuServe many moons ago– the section where moderators moved messages that had crossed the line in one way or another. I’m sure things have only gotten worse since then. Elsewhere, those comments are not only approved, but endorsed and encouraged.

    Part of my theory is that Covid indirectly contributed to this. The TLM had been mostly under the radar until last year. Then, any number of TLM’s were live streamed or even recorded for on-demand use (i. e. “evidence”). My guess is that lots of people looking for a televised Mass stumbled on TLM’s and said, “Wow! I could have had a TLM!” At the same time, Curia officials and unsympathetic cardinals and bishops were also locked down and found these same TLM’s and said, “Sakes alive! They’re having TLM’s– and anyone can watch them!” This may have started the groundswell of resentment among at least some bishops– and may well be why the motu proprio was so sweeping. The only way to stop live streamed TLM’s would be to end them at the sources– all of them.

  11. WVC says:

    I confess – I’m not a Weigel fan. Almost every article I read by him that mentions anything regarding those who love the Tradition of the Church referred to such folks as coming from the “fever swamps” of the radical traditionalists. To some degree, I feel like folks like Weigel have helped perpetuate the myth that only crazy radicals are devoted to the Latin Mass. But I confess I haven’t read much by him for several years after being initially turned off, so he may have softened his rhetoric quite a lot in that time period.

    Regardless, I’m happy to see him now defend the ancient liturgy of the Church. Would that many others (*ahem*, I’m looking in your direction, Bishop Barron – maybe you blogged about it or tweeted and I just missed it?) might join in on this effort. If ever there was a time for men of good will to stand together – this is it.

  12. Grant M says:

    “That “consultation” was intended to give cover to what was already decided.”

    I read in a church history that Henry VIII ordered a visitation of all the monasteries on England. Of course problems were found here and there – nothing that couldn’t have been fixed with patience and care.

    Instead Henry famously closed all the monasteries and confiscated their property.

    It seems to me that Rome is now a dog in a manger: they possess this priceless heirloom; they will not use it themselves and they will not let others use it (or only for a time under severe restrictions until they return to the NO.)

  13. Uniaux says:

    The strangest statements, the underlying statements, in Traditionis Custodes and the accompanying letter are the “and not to others” line, and the use of the word “unique” regarding the 1970 missal and the lex orandi of the Roman rite.
    Based on those premises, it would seem that the survey pointed to a massive growth in the TLM.
    Though I cannot fathom why the pope or any bishops would have such a reaction to the growth of the TLM other than an irrational hatred of it, or that they know what they lost, see the growth of that which they lost, and want everyone to suffer as they suffered.
    What would happen if a future pope promulgated a new missal that was identical to the 1962 MR but with the addition of modern saints to sanctoral cycle? Would this new MR be readily embraced by the same bishops who are vehemently against the TLM?

  14. Gil Garza says:

    Ordinariate, here: it’s terrifying to see a Pontiff entirely dismantle a general pastoral and liturgical provision that a previous, yet living, Pontiff, has established for a growing group of faithful living at the periphery. There was no sign that the previous Pontiff had intended the provision made for these faithful to be in any way temporary or provisional. I’m so sad and terrified!

  15. Semper Gumby says:

    WVC: “To some degree, I feel like folks like Weigel have helped perpetuate the myth that only crazy radicals are devoted to the Latin Mass…Regardless, I’m happy to see him now defend the ancient liturgy of the Church.” Good point.

    George Weigel wrote: “I do not regard Latin as a “sacred” liturgical language and I believe it entirely possible to conduct dignified and reverent worship in English.”

    Personal preference is beside the point. Latin is a cohesive force for a global Church, Church documents should be promulgated in Latin, and exorcists have stated time after time that demons hate Latin.

    “I am a Novus Ordo man.”


    “I think the suggestion from some liturgical traditionalists that the survival of Catholicism demands the restoration of the old Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the old Offertory prayers, and the old Last Gospel is ridiculous…”

    Weigel should consider restoration for its own sake, regardless of what certain outspoken Catholics may say.

    “That being said, I also think that the recent apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes [Custodians of the Tradition], which attempts to repeal Pope Benedict XVI’s generous permission for easier use of the Traditional Latin Mass in the 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, was theologically incoherent, pastorally divisive, unnecessary, cruel — and a sorry example of the liberal bullying that has become all too familiar in Rome recently.”


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